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Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of my favorite hikes in Southern Utah – I’ve done it 3 times! Not only do you hike to a 126-foot waterfall in the desert, but you’ll also see pictographs as you hike through a beautiful canyon. This Utah hike really has it all!
In this trail guide we’ll cover:
- trail info
- the best time of year
- hike description
- water availability
- hazards and challenges
- other hikes and activities nearby
Where is Lower Calf Creek Falls?
Calf Creek is a stream located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah.
There are two waterfalls in the stream that you can hike to – the upper falls and the lower falls.
Both hikes are beautiful, but the lower waterfall is much bigger and easier to access. This trail guide is for the lower falls.
The trailhead for Lower Calf Creek Falls is just off of Highway 12 between the towns of Escalante, Utah, and Boulder, Utah.
- Trailhead: directions
- Fees: The cost is $5 per vehicle. You’ll park in the parking lot by the restrooms right before entering the campground.
- Camping: Camping is available for $15 per night on a first-come-first-served basis. Arrive early if you plan to camp because this area is very popular and the campground fills up quickly. Check Calf Creek Campground updates and alerts for the latest information on camping.
The parking area is well marked. The trailhead is located in Calf Creek Campground.
There are bathrooms and water available at the trailhead parking area.
- Distance: about 6 miles roundtrip
- Difficulty: I consider this an easy hike (but keep in mind that difficulty ratings are subjective!)
- Hike Type: out-and-back
- Dogs: Dogs are allowed, but they must be kept on a leash.
- Parking: There’s a small parking area at the trailhead as I mentioned above, however, due to the popularity of this hike, the parking area fills up quickly.
Best Time of Year to Hike Calf Creek Falls
I think this hike is best done from Spring through Fall.
I’ve hiked it in the Spring and Fall months, and I think the Fall might be my favorite. In the Fall, the canyon looks so beautiful from all the changing leaves.
The Summer months are very hot, but it does make a swim under the waterfall so refreshing and enjoyable! In the Spring, it was still way too cold for me to take a dip.
The trail doesn’t have much shade, so keep in mind that hiking in the intense summer heat can be an added challenge.
Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike Details
You’ll start by walking along the campground road until you see the official trailhead on your left.
At the trailhead, there’s a sign-in box along with pamphlets about the hike.
Along the hike, there are several points of interest marked by wooden numbered posts. The pamphlets provide more information about each spot.
There are 15 signposts where you can learn more about the landscape and the people that once lived here.
Make sure to stop at wooden post number 9 and see if you can find the pictographs across the canyon (pictured above).
I love to pack binoculars on this hike! The pictographs are far away, so having a pair of binoculars lets you see them in more detail. They’re great for looking at birds and other animals too.
The entire hike is relatively flat through packed dirt and sand, with a few small hills to go up and down. Once you get to the waterfall, you can take a swim in the water if you’re up for it!
If you don’t feel like going for a full swim, don’t worry, the mist from the waterfall will help keep you cool.
Once you’ve had enough time at the waterfall, turn around and hike back the way you came.
There’s drinking water available at the trailhead campground from April through October.
In addition, if you have a water filter, you can easily filter water from the pool at the base of the waterfall, or along the hike when the trail gets close to the creek.
I’ve been using the Sawyer Squeeze water filter on my hikes for years. They’re small, lightweight, and easy to use. As with all filters, make sure they never freeze! It’s always a good idea to check and make sure your filter is working properly before a trip.
Calf Creek Falls Hiking Hazards and Challenges
A Remote Desert
This is a large and remote area and cell phone service is unreliable. Gas, food, and other services are not available at the trailhead.
Always make sure you are well prepared with your hiking essentials, navigation, water, food, and clothing. Tell someone back home where you are going, and when they can expect to hear from you.
Extreme Weather Conditions
The weather dramatically impacts this landscape. There can be extreme heat, limited shade, and dangerous thunderstorms that often produce torrential rain leading to flash floods.
Always check the weather and be aware of changing conditions and flash flood warnings in the areas that you will be hiking.
Things to do Nearby
There are so many things to see and do in the Escalante area. Below are some great options:
- Escalante River Trail backpacking trip – such a beautiful backpacking trip that’s not crowded
- Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trip – this is a very popular but beautiful backpacking destination
- Kiva Koffeehouse – the cutest coffeehouse with spectacular views, coffee, pastries, breakfast, and lunch
- Burr Trail Grill – the best place to get burgers after a good long hike
- Spooky and Peekaboo Slot Canyon Loop day hike – one of the most popular slot canyon hikes in all of Utah
- Escalante Petrified Forest State Park – hike among rainbow-hued petrified wood
- Capitol Reef National Park – one of my favorite Utah national parks!
I hope you enjoy this classic Southern Utah hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls.
If you have any questions as you plan your trip, just comment below!